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Friday, January 17, 2014
Old-order Mennonite funeral 1/16/14, Lancaster County, PA
(click on photo for a large expansive view)
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"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).
Yesterday we passed a large old-order Mennonite funeral at a Meetinghouse along US Route 322 east of Ephrata, PA. Bright orange safety cones were placed in the middle of the busy highway since this group uses the horse and buggy as a means of conveyance and there was a lot of traffic going into the funeral. It was a somber sight as we passed by the women dressed essentially identical in their customary woolen black garb lined up to enter on one side of the building. On the other side the men, also dressed in black with their distinctive dress hats, were lined up to enter.
I saw Elvin Martin a short time later in a company we visit. He is a member of the same old-order group and told me the service was for an elderly man well-known and highly regarded in the group. (The photos we share were taken from a distance out of respect for their privacy.)
We've all heard the old saying, "Nothing's certain but death and taxes". While we contend that there are other certainties in life it is definitely the case with death and taxes!
Two weeks ago I attended the celebration service for Clayton Sheridan, who at one time was my supervisor when we planted a church in northern PA in the late seventies.*¹ Following the service I visited for a few minutes with Al Pundt, a friend who pastored in Pittsburgh for many years. He told me each time he conducts a funeral he ends the service by solemnly looking out over the gathering before he shares a benediction and asks, "Who's next?" That surely must give the people a piercing thought before leaving!
We've seen a television ad that shows a woman happily opening an envelope. Her look turns to distress as she reads the note inside, "Your heart attack arrives in two days."*² Over ten years ago I had a health problem requiring several surgeries. Initially there was uncertainty regarding just how serious the situation was. I recall a life lesson I learned at that time and have considered many times since. "You don't pick your problems and you don't schedule them." As a result of my own experience I now have this perspective and often share it with others in helping them accept and deal with their own personal trials. It's also true concerning our death.
God's Word warns us to be ready for death and informs us how to be prepared. We often react to warnings. They can sure be annoying and disrupt our plans! God has warned us and many find His warnings an annoyance and ignore them. God's Word has told us that we will die and that's something we can observe throughout all humanity. God's Word also tells us that we will face judgment. Many give no thought or preparation to this judgment, but God's Word is clear and true.
There is a final step of faith, a final appointment that we all will keep. It sure doesn't take faith to know that we will all face death. We see it all around us and especially when a loved one dies. Our faith is expressed in either a belief that there is an accounting to God and after-life or a belief that there is not. Both views require faith. We believe there is an after-life and live in accordance to that belief. The daily verse ought to be memorized and hidden deep within our hearts, "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."
Are you ready to meet God at your death? Have you received Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Many have varied opinions about what the future on this side will bring. But one thing is certain: we will die and we must be prepared to meet God. Prepare your heart today. Only God knows who's next.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, it's my desire to have the same mindset as William Featherston who, following his conversion at the young age of 18, penned these words of commitment both in life and in death: "I'll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath; And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow, If ever I loved thee, My Jesus 'tis now." Whether I'm young or old, healthy or sick, wealthy or poor, I choose to prepare my heart for eternity here and now so that I will be assured of endless delight as I draw my first breath in heaven. I want to be prepared, persevering and prayerful while I take my long but brief hike here below. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
How To Become A Christian
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"My Jesus, I Love Thee" Video Avalon In contrast to the vast majority of young people who think themselves invincible with the possibility of death far from their thoughts, this poem (later put to music) was penned by William Featherston at the young age of 18 celebrating his conversion to Christ in 1864. The 3rd verse refers to his future death as a believer and the 4th speaks of the mansions in glory where he will enjoy endless delight adoring the King of heaven, singing the eternal message, "If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus 'tis now". Interestingly, he would die only 26 years later at the young age of 44.
"All My Tears" Video Selah
"Going Home" Video Mark Lowry & Kim Lord
"Save A Place For Me" Video Matthew West
"What A Day That Will Be" Video Gaither Vocal Band
"With Hope" Video Steven Curtis Chapman
"Hold Me Jesus" Video Rich Mullins
*¹ We wrote about Clayton Sheridan's service here.
*² Heart attack ad mentioned in the message today. Video "Laura's heart attack didn't come with a warning."
Personal note: Today we have a friend on our hearts who may be near life's termination point. He is ready to meet his Maker and we are praying for him and his family. Perhaps the songs selected today will give encouragement to all who are in this place. I had a nice phone visit with our friend's son, Mike, just before sending this message out. He shared a poem he wrote when his dad went into the hospital several days ago that has given him assurance and he gave me permission to share with our readers as well. (See below.) We believe it will bless many!
A Hiker's Leap of Faith
There are times when the trail is so lonely;
There are times when the way is so steep.
But Jesus is walking beside me
And His strong hand in mine I will keep.
I can't see what path lies before me;
I don't know what's 'round the next bend.
But as long as my Savior is with me,
He's guiding, on that I can surely depend.
For He's hiked up the hill of Mount Calvary
And He bore the sin cross on His own.
So He knows all about my life's struggles
And He makes heaven's victory known.
Our trials are not for our evil;
He uses them making weak strong.
He exercises our faith on the pathway;
He trades in our grief for a song.
So when I am hiking and stumble,
Or slip near the edge as to fall,
I trust in the grasp of my Savior.
I love him and make Him my all.
My future eternal is with Him;
He knows all my days to the end,
He loves me and cares for my needs now,
He my soul does completely defend.
And here's the best part of my story.
My friend Jesus can also be yours.
You can trust Him to hike with you also;
His love, He freely out-pours.
His hand can grip yours and guide you,
In your journey rough as it is.
He's The Master, The Expert, The Climber,
And the power and glory are His.
He created us, loves and protects us,
His grace He freely extends.
He paid for it through His own life's blood.
His counsel and wisdom He lends.
So come all you hikers of life,
Whether flat paths or high mountains steep.
Join me with my Savior sojourning.
When with Him, don't doubt; take the leap.
Our faith is assurance of the unseen.
Inspiration strengthened with hope.
Our carabiner* is locked on God's harness;
He is at the end of our rope.
* When I read Mike's poem I didn't recognize what a carabiner is till I looked it up and saw a photo (left).
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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